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Pasquotank OKs earlier Sunday alcohol sales

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Pasquotank County commissioners recently voted to allow alcohol sales on Sunday mornings, despite one commissioner’s claim the move would be bad for public safety.

Back in June, state lawmakers and Gov. Roy Cooper made various changes to state alcohol laws under Senate Bill 155. Called the “brunch bill,” the law authorizes local governments to allow alcohol sales on Sundays starting at 10 a.m. Prior state law prohibited alcohol sales on Sundays until noon.

Pasquotank commissioners approved earlier alcohol sales on Sundays by a 4-2 vote, with board Vice Chairman Bill Sterritt and Commissioner Frankie Meads voting no.

Commissioner Jeff Dixon, a beer distributor, was recused from the vote to avoid any conflict of interest.

Notably, Sterritt's “no” vote was a reversal of his position from last month, when he voted in favor of the ordinance allowing earlier sales during the ordinance’s “first read.” State law requires an ordinance to pass unanimously on its first read to take effect. While Meads' opposition was enough to prevent the ordinance’s passage last month, it needed only a simple majority to pass when commissioners voted last week.

Commissioners' action now means alcohol sales on Sunday morning are allowed throughout Pasquotank County. Elizabeth City City Council previously approved earlier Sunday alcohol sales within the city limits.

Though the Elizabeth City Area Chamber of Commerce has endorsed allowing earlier alcohol sales, Meads reiterated that he is opposed doing so. He cited public safety concerns as well as religious objections.

Meads said recent data from Pasquotank-Camden Emergency Medical Services showed ambulance crews were least busy on Sundays, which he linked to fewer alcohol sales. He also suggested allowing more alcohol sales would contribute to automobile crashes and thereby rising costs for auto insurance.

“Do you want to make more problems, or do you want to solve problems?” Meads asked.

He also claimed the county should not allow earlier sales out of respect for the “Lord's Day.”

Sterritt also said he had, “after considerable thought,” decided to oppose earlier sales. Though not clearly stating why earlier sales shouldn't be allowed, he commented there were few places in the county outside of Elizabeth City to buy alcohol.

Commissioner Bettie Parker said during the meeting that, while she doesn't drink, she doesn't “scorn those who do.” She decided to back the ordinance, she said, because she wanted to support the businesses that favor earlier sales.

In supporting earlier sales, Chairman Cecil Perry suggested there wasn't a practical reason to oppose earlier alcohol sales.

“I guess I'm a realist. People who want alcohol will get it,” he said.

Also voting in favor of the ordinance were Commissioners Joe Winslow and Lloyd Griffin.

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